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Archive for May, 2011

Supply Your Kids for Crafting

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
By Twistie

Crafts are great for keeping kids entertained for long periods of time. I remember spending literally hours over my paper dolls, paints, and other assorted projects when I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

But you do need some supplies and tools for this kind of imaginative play.

What do you put in your crafting kit? Well, there are a lot of options out there largely based on what particular interest the kids in question display. Then again, there are a few basics that will be useful to just about any child who wants to make something.

What do you need? I thought you’d never ask!


Welcome to Crafting With Kids Week!

Monday, May 30th, 2011
By Twistie

So it’s that time of year again. School is out for the summer, and there are children to be entertained. Whether they’re your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or the neighbors’ kids who like to hang with you, they’re going to need a direction for their energy… and chances are you won’t get them terribly excited about cleaning your house for you. More’s the pity.

Ah, but you know about crafts! You can show them fun ways to use their imaginations to create realities Wii and X-Box  can never take them to.

This week I’ll be pointing out great kid-friendly projects, craft supplies, and terrifying stories you can tell them so they appreciate just how lucky they are to live in a world where their craft activities are purely voluntary.

So sit back, settle in, and get ready for some fun projects and interesting trivia.

Quickie Question: Crafting an Event

Friday, May 27th, 2011
By Twistie

Cradle Favor illustration via This Just In

I love the image above. It’s a favor done for a baby shower. Follow the link to see the instructions.

It’s fun to do things for events large and small. After all, it’s the little touches that change a wedding, a baby shower, a birthday party into one that’s uniquely yours.

Once upon a time, I was a bride to be with a penchant for crafting. It made putting my wedding together a little less expensive and a lot more unique. My touches were everywhere.

What did I do? Well, I made the lace for my wedding gown, put together the wedding favors, made the table centerpieces, tied all the bouquets, and created my own headpiece. While I didn’t sew my gown, it was custom made to my instructions. Heck, I even wrote the signs that showed people where to find the site!

But I’ve known other people who did even more. One friend of mine sewed her own gown from soup to nuts, as well as her veil; made the centerpieces and bouquets; printed the invitations, inserts, and thank you cards; grew the flowers, and even helped design her own engagement ring.

And just a few weeks ago I attended a baby shower where the hostess had made pins as favors. Each one was a tiny, hand-knitted cap or sweater in baby blue and white variegated yarn.

So what about you? Have you ever handmade touches for an event like a wedding, shower, birthday party, or other significant happening? What did you make? Did you have fun? Did anyone notice? Would you do it again?

Enquiring minds want to know!

Pretty or Tasty… Maybe Both

Thursday, May 26th, 2011
By Twistie

picture via Cake Picture Gallery

I think I was about ten when my mother took the Wilton cake decorating course.

Cake wasn’t a frequent thing in my home up to that point. It got trotted out mostly for birthdays. Even most holiday meals didn’t end with cake. Thanksgiving was pumpkin pie and a steamed pudding, Christmas was usually a fun dessert made of crushed candy canes frozen in whipped cream (too delicious for words!). The only holiday that had a cake attached was Easter, when Mom would bake a cake in the cast iron lamb mold, cover the white frosting with shredded coconut and surround it with brightly colored jelly beans. Birthdays didn’t include much decoration. Just cakey, chocolatey goodness.

But once Mom got a piping bag in her hand and a couple lessons, world watch out! Suddenly the kitchen bulged with different shapes and sizes of cake pans. She got a huge selection of decorative tips to play with. Chocolate was no longer the goal, but the first step on the journey to cake. Sure, the flavor was nice, but what was it going to look like?

The cakes, sadly, became boxed mixes and the frosting a Crisco ‘buttercream’ that tasted like sweetened sawdust… but they sure looked pretty.

Her finest effort was probably a gorgeous pastoral scene on sheet cake with a castle built at one end and dozens of fabulous flowers growing out of a bright kelly green swathe of frosting grass. Alas! one of the cats managed to get up on the table and stepped right in one corner of the cake. Never one to be phased for long by disaster, Mom whipped up a bit more frosting, added a touch of black food coloring, and carefully built up a frosting well to cover the damage. That corner was not served, and nobody noticed that there was any problem.

For my part, well, I don’t decorate my cakes so much. I bake from scratch, use butter in my buttercream, and worry a lot more about the flavor of the beast than the look. If I manage to make it pretty, that’s nice, but it’s a bonus rather than the point of the exercise.

Every once in a while, though, I do think fondly of Mom’s cakes. And then I wonder if I should try picking up a properly-tipped pastry bag and see what I can do with a cake that really tastes good.

Sorry, Folks!

Thursday, May 26th, 2011
By Twistie

I apologize profusely for the fact there was no Crafty Manolo article yesterday. For some reason WordPress kept refusing to let me in. But after a few tries today, it has relented at long last.

Stay tuned for today’s regularly scheduled article which should arrive fairly shortly.

Knit something while you wait, okay?

Pretty Pets to Knit

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
By Twistie

I’ve never had a pet guinea pig. Having been cat-owned all my life, I learned early on that adorable little rodents and felines just don’t mix very well. I did have a couple hamsters and rats along the way, but guinea pigs never happened in part because of… well, between the fun of cleaning cages and the stress of trying to keep the rodents and all those felines away from one another, I made my choice.

But Gertie up there, she’s another story. She’s knitted. If the cat gets at her, I could make another. What’s that you say? Make? Not buy? That’s right! What’s for sale on Etsy isn’t the finished product, but a pattern to knit her up. Just add needles and mohair! At $4.50 for the pattern, you’re in great financial shape to make as many guinea pigs as you please.

Gertie is the brain child of DebiBirkinDesigns. Oh, and if you haven’t dreamed of guinea pigs, you can always choose her budgies, meerkat/ferret, mole, or even a dormouse complete with tea pot to take a nap in. In point of fact, that last one is a tea cozy.

Then again, the shipping is free, since the patterns are sent in the form of PDFs. Collect the whole set!

Quickie Question: Crafty Gifts

Monday, May 23rd, 2011
By Twistie

We’ve talked before about giving crafts as gifts, but what about those gifts we’ve been given that relate to our crafts?

The two best craft-related gifts that were ever given to me both came from family. One year for Christmas, my father gave me a really great bag. It had piles 0f zippered pockets – most of them clear so I could see what was inside – and a couple large pockets big enough to hold small books and sheets of paper. It had a handle and a strap long enough to wear cross-body. In fact, it still has all those things. With it I can organize my bobbins, threads, prickings, crochet hook, and all my other lacemaking tools when I’m on the move. It’s still going strong after nearly twenty years of hard use… and despite the best efforts of several, it has never been successfully nabbed by another lacemaker.

The other best craft gift I was ever given was from my brother the alpaca rancher. That same Christmas, he hand carved two bobbins for me. I use them often, and think warmly of him every time I do.

So how about you? Do you have a heartwarming (or otherwise) story of a craft-related gift from someone you love? Did they get it juuuuust right, or so very all but? Do you still have it?

Online Sale at Roberts Crafts!

Friday, May 20th, 2011
By Twistie

It’s sale time at Roberts Crafts! Now through saturday, you can get 20% off your entire purchase (full-priced items only) so long as you order them online. That means you can afford to learn about a new way of doing your favorite craft, such as using wire to crochet.

Or maybe it’s time to treat yourself to some fun rubber stamps, like this one:

Or even a kit to entertain the kids and teach them scientific principals during their summer vacation:

Whatever your interest, chances are there’s something you can use. Why not get it at a bargain price? Just use the sale code SPRING20W.

Bobbin Along

Thursday, May 19th, 2011
By Twistie

Mmmm… pretty.

I love lace bobbins. I suppose that’s not surprising since they’re a necessary tool for my craft, but then not everyone who does a craft cares so very much about what their tools look like. I get that. They’d rather put the care and money into the thread and the pattern books, and that’s more than cool. But I find that quality tools not only add to the aesthetic pleasures, but make the work easier, too.

And that’s the case with Knotwork Lace Bobbins. Yes, I own about a dozen of these babies, and really want more. They’re very smoothly turned, a good weight for the sorts of threads I tend to use (I like some pretty bold patterns that take coarser threads), and sturdy as all get out. I’m hard on my bobbins and I’ve never once managed to break one of these.

The bone ones pictured above range from $11.00 – $14.00 apiece, and are customized with your choice of paint and wire (where appropriate). They can even be dyed for a small extra fee.

But not everyone wants bone. That’s okay, there’s wood, too. And if you use Continental rather than Midlands bobbins, well, Frances has you covered. And then there are travel-sized bobbins, other lacemaking tools, and a smattering of other sorts of needlework tools.

Sure, you can get cheaper tools. You can make bobbins yourself out of various household items you probably have lying around your home. Heck, I even have a book from the 1970’s that tells you how to make your own bobbins out of used toothbrushes! Great deal, if you have enough disused toothbrushes randomly taking up space in your home, but I think it could take a while to gather up enough of them to do much of a pattern.

But if you love nice tools and aren’t going to learn to turn bobbins for yourself, support a bobbin maker, like Frances. You’ll be glad you did.

An Important Crafts PSA

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
By Twistie

We all know there are evil people out there in the cold, cold world. Most of us have met at least one of them, and many of us have been duped, mistreated, etc. by more than one.

Most of us, however, assume that we won’t find them in the crafting community. Not here!

But the principal of caveat emptor is an important one with us, too. If you doubt me, please head over to Regretsy and read this takedown of several Etsy ‘crafters’ who have simply taken someone else’s work and listed it as their own, often using the exact same text as the originator’s. Yeah, stealing pictures and descriptions, and then charging more.

Seriously, folks, this is something we all need to be aware is going on. After all, we want to support original artists and get our money’s worth, not simply give our hard-earned cash to fakers who more than likely will never send us the products we ordered. After all, actually buying the pieces and mailing them out would cut into those precious profits!

Keep a weather eye open and don’t get duped.

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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